Some employees of the McAlister's Deli restaurant on Missouri Boulevard in Jefferson City have tested positive for COVID-19, the company's corporate office confirmed Tuesday.
"We have been made aware that two employees at the McAlister's franchised location 2323 Missouri Boulevard in Jefferson City have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19)," a statement from the company reads. "The franchisee closed this location temporarily to allow for additional deep cleaning and sanitation and will re-open on Thursday.
"The well-being of the guests and employees across all our franchise locations is important to us. As we continue to monitor the situation, we are encouraging all franchisees to closely follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and take direction from their local health departments."
Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said the county health agency would treat any cases among food service employees the same as it would any person found to have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county.
"As with any contact investigation, our staff interviews the positive case to determine who they have been in close contact (within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) with for the 48 hours prior to symptom onset or the positive test if asymptomatic," Campbell said. "If said positive case was a food worker, our staff would ask them the same questions. Each close contact would be identified, contacted and advised to quarantine for 14 days from exposure and to watch for symptoms."
While some county health departments have done so, the Cole County Health Department's policy has been to not publish information notifying the public about potential community exposure or food service workers who test positive for COVID-19, Campbell said.
"It is unlikely that any customer would have had close contact of prolonged exposure to a food worker," Campbell said. "Other health departments have been criticized from businesses and the public for these practices. They have been accused of intentionally harming business and for fear-mongering among the public. With the amount of education about the potential risk of and symptoms of COVID-19, everyone should already know what symptoms to look for regardless of what businesses they have frequented. At any time that CCHD felt that a public release advising of exposure was warranted, we would issue one."
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea, according to the CDC.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services offers a 24-hour COVID-19 information hotline at 877-435-8411.